After several weeks of pre-residency work–preparing solo presentations on economic challenges facing park agencies and posting reflections on a leadership article and a CPC financial sustainability video–21 Park Leaders from across Canada gathered in Canmore Alberta for the first residency of the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership.

Participants included managers, superintendents, planners, and programmers from regions across Canada. The majority came from Parks Canada–though several of these federal Park Leaders were meeting for the first time–as well as BC Parks, Alberta Parks, Saskatchewan Parks, Manitoba Parks, Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq), Northwest Territories Environment & Natural Resources, and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Hosted in the Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse for the week, the group gave presentations, collaborated on capstone team projects, and built networks that will last beyond the program. Workshops throughout the residency included:

  • Dr. Joe Pavelka from Mount Royal University on valuing parks and the business of park visitation.
  • Dr. Connie Van der Byl from the Institute for Environmental Sustainability at Mount Royal University on strategic sustainability and the tensions of park revenue and conservation.
  • Dr. Andrew Bear Robe from Bear Robe Consulting and the Piikani Nation on economic development as an act of reconciliation.
  • Sylvie Plante, PhD (candidate) from Royal Roads University on Social Capital and Collaborative Innovation, and
  • Dr. Don Carruthers Den Hoed from Mount Royal University and the CPCIL project on leadership in parks and protected areas.
  • William Snow from the Stoney Nakoda First Nations on Indigenous ways of knowing and cultural monitoring.

While evenings were free for networking, there were two memorable events, including a fireside chat with CPC Park Leadership alumni Peter Swain, Nadine Spence, and Kathie Adare and an informal conversation with Acting Parks Canada General Director, Michael Nadler.

In addition, the group participated in two field experiences, the first focused on innovative approaches to economic sustainability, and the second built around the idea of contributing to the park community, as the CPCIL Park Leaders is tended to local challenges and provided feedback for park managers and programmers. The former included a trip to the Calgary Zoo to explore their visionary approach to becoming Canada’s leading wildlife conservation agency and a stop at Glenbow Ranch to explore private land conservation and other effective conservation mechanisms with Guy Greenaway from the Miistakis Institute. The latter included a site tour of the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, a visit to the Peter Lougheed Discovery Centre in Kananaskis Country, and a stop at the Morley Artisans Flea Market. In all cases, the hosts appreciated the conversations and ideas generated by the Park Leadership Development Development Program participants.

Having returned home from the Rocky Mountains and to the reality of daily work, all the participants are focused on their solo tasks–working with the program facilitator to create outreach projects to bring leadership learning back to their home agencies–and their capstone team projects. These projects reflect collaborative approaches to looking at parks in new ways and aim to do things such as

  • compile success stories of social capital and community relationships
  • build an initial database of Indigenous partnerships with park agencies
  • create a tool for valuing park agencies as partners–and for finding the right partners, and
  • reviewing a Visitor Use Management Framework BC Parks is developing and piloting its application to other jurisdictions.

Capstone projects are expected to be complete by mid April and will be posted on the park leaders development program page.

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